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Authors: Andronico, D.* 
Cristaldi, A.* 
Del Carlo, P.* 
Taddeucci, J.* 
Title: Shifting styles of basaltic explosive activity during the 2002-03 eruption of Mt. Etna, Italy
Issue Date: 10-Mar-2009
Series/Report no.: 2-4/180(2009)
DOI: 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2008.07.026
Keywords: Etna
basaltic explosive activity
ash-rich jet and plume
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.03. Magmas 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.05. Volcanic rocks 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.06. Volcano monitoring 
Abstract: The 2002–03 flank eruption of Etna was characterized by two months of explosive activity that produced copious ash fallout, constituting a major source of hazard and damage over all eastern Sicily. Most of the tephra were erupted from vents at 2750 and 2800 m elevation on the S flank of the volcano, where different eruptive styles alternated. The dominant style of explosive activity consisted of discrete to pulsing magma jets mounted by wide ash plumes, which we refer to as ash-rich jets and plumes. Similarly, ash-rich explosive activity was also briefly observed during the 2001 flank eruption of Etna, but is otherwise fairly uncommon in the recent history of Etna. Here, we describe the features of the 2002–03 explosive activity and compare it with the 2001 eruption in order to characterize ash-rich jets and plumes and their transition with other eruptive styles, including Strombolian and ash explosions, mainly through chemical, componentry and morphology investigations of erupted ash. Past models explain the transition between different styles of basaltic explosive activity only in terms of flow conditions of gas and liquid. Our findings suggest that the abundant presence of a solid phase (microlites) may also control vent degassing and consequent magma fragmentation and eruptive style. In fact, in contrast with the Strombolian or Hawaiian microlite-poor, fluidal, sideromelane clasts, ash-rich jets and plumes produce crystal-rich tachylite clasts with evidence of brittle fragmentation, suggesting that high groundmass crystallinity of the very top part of the magma column may reduce bubble movement while increasing fragmentation efficiency.
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